What can I say, I’m one of those people who thinks that Solo is really the star of the Star Wars movies; I was very annoyed that eps1-3 didn’t make a reference to him, even something as small as ‘here’s this kid I’m teaching to be a smuggler…’.
Anyway, a friend was cleaning out her house of books and I became the recipient of a Rather Large Bag of Star Wars novels… and I have finally dipped my toe in. I started here partly because SOLO, and partly because of this article about the author, AC Crispin, having recently died. And I had no idea that AC = Ann.
Look, this is not a novel that was ever going to win literary prizes. The prose is a bit clunky, some of the characters are a bit stock, and yes the overall plot is a bit hackneyed. BUT! But.
a) It’s SOLO. Who doesn’t want to know how the galaxy’s most loveable rogue got to where he is? Who doesn’t want to know why someone so rough on the outside actually has such a soft smooshy inside? (Much like a tauntaun…). Plus, how did he GET that tough exterior? How did he and Chewbacca find each other, and what about the Millennium Falcon? These are questions I really want an answer to. So, I’ll read the novels.
b) It expands the Star Wars universe. I think one reason why I really like the idea of the enormous number of tie-in novels is that they’re all set in the same universe, but they don’t concentrate on just one bit. The Zahn novels didn’t; this one novel takes the reader to a few different planets, and while most of them are (as far as I recall) referenced in the original movies, this book looks at them from a rather different perspective – and it still works. It’s a lot grubbier, mostly. Yes Solo is a smuggler in the movies, yes Tatooine is the planet-futherest-from-the-bright-centre-of-the-galaxy – but really you don’t see much of the seamier side of the planets, let alone of the empire as an Evil Empire. Contrariwise, Crispin sets a lot of her story in the criminal underground, or on a slave plantation. Some people are nice, some are downright rotters.
c) Gratuitous Star Wars references. Sure Solo’s miff-ed-ness at being called scruffy got a bit tired after a while, but still – funny.
d) It takes Star Wars stuff but it makes it different. There’s an elderly Wookee woman that Solo’s friends with, and there are clear parallels to Chewbacca (also with his non-human companion Muuurgh) – but it’s not identical. There’s a romantic interest and again, parallels to Leia but by no means identical, and indeed provides some rather thought-provoking points on why Solo reacts the way he does to Leia (abandonment issues). Links to the Hutts, being a pilot, etc – all of these essential elements are there, but Crispin does interesting enough things with them that it’s by no means ‘young Solo just imitates old Solo.’ And that’s cool.
Thus this novel was definitely light entertainment. It’s light because it doesn’t require an enormous investment of time or thought-process from the reader – although it does raise genuine issues and does not simply ignore them. It’s entertainment because there are pirates, and smugglers, and chases, and Han Solo.